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DAI Leads Effort to Expand Access to Mental Health Services
Mary Immaculate hosted a Dallas Area Interfaith meeting in late October where school, police and mental health officials committed to working with one another to better residents’ access to resources by placing a community health worker with the church and communicating better.
“We will not bury our loved ones anymore because of lack of access to mental health services,”
parishioner Natalia Valenzuela said at the meeting. “By getting the services we need and building unity, we will overcome.”
[Photo Credit: Shelby Tauber, Dallas Morning News]
This North Texas Church Lost Six Members to Suicide. Here’s What It’s Doing to Get Families Help, Dallas Morning News [pdf]
COPS/Metro Leader Virginia Mata Profiled in HEB Foundation Magazine
Everyone in San Antonio knows about flash floods—“Turn Around, Don’t Drown” signs are familiar on certain roads. But in the West Side, a neighborhood established by Mexican Americans who were restricted from more resourced neighborhoods north of downtown, floods were far more commonplace.
“I remember as kids getting pulled out of the [family] station wagon [that almost got swept away],” Mata said. “We were at the time like five or six, I think. But yeah, we didn’t know that was not normal.”
Mata says when you grow up experiencing poverty, “you accept it, normalize it, and blame yourself for it.” What seems normal at the time becomes absurd when you reflect back on it as an adult.
Mata speaks softly and with a kind of wisdom that comes from navigating barriers early in life.....
Mata is retired from two careers—one in federal law enforcement, and another as a lietenant [sic] commander in the Navy Reserves. Nowadays, she spends a lot of her time with COPS/Metro, a community organizing coalition that gathers people from churches, schools, businesses and unions to represent the needs of families and children. Over the last year, Mata and her COPS/Metro partners have spurred the City of San Antonio to create and invest in a workforce training program designed to support people seeking higher-paying jobs.
Retirement from her final job as a probation officer in Del Rio in 2018 brought her back to San Antonio, where she bought a house near Sea World that is still a close enough drive to her old stomping grounds. Those stomping grounds include Holy Family Church, Mata’s church growing up, which is also where COPS/Metro was born.
The coalition’s first fight, all those decades ago? Demanding that the city fix the West Side’s drainage issues.
Mata’s story is coming full circle....
[Photo Credit: Echoes]
Someone Like Virginia, Echoes [pdf]
Study Shows Project ARRIBA Has $893 Million Impact on El Paso Economy
Project ARRIBA has been quietly working with El Paso leaders to help hundreds of mostly Hispanic students from poor families through nursing school and drastically changing their lives since 1998. They’ve been at it so quietly they barely get noticed publicly anymore. But they have been busy.
The Hunt Institute of Global Competitiveness at the University of Texas at El Paso released a study last month that found for every dollar invested in Project ARRIBA, $28 is returned to the region. ARRIBA has added $893 million to El Paso’s economy in earnings by the program’s graduates since 1995, the report says.
The nonprofit recently received a $250,000 Bank of America grant for regional workforce development to address “a shortage of healthcare workers at a critical time.” The El Paso region has long suffered an acute shortage of nurses, but since the novel coronavirus made its debut, the shortage has worsened. And hospitals in El Paso, like many others across America, are short on registered nurses by the hundreds.
El Paso businessman Woody Hunt endorsed the organization in the announcement, saying,
“Project ARRIBA has become a crucial community partner that is helping build the next generation of healthcare workers who come from and understand the unique needs of our region...."
ARRIBA sprang from a social justice organization that El Paso’s Catholic Diocese formed in 1985 known as the El Paso Interreligious Sponsoring Organization, or EPISO. It’s now called EPISO-Border Interfaith because churches of other denominations have joined.
[In photo: Roman Ortiz, Executive Director of ARRIBA. Photo Credit: David Crowder, El Paso Inc.]
Report: ARRIBA Program That Helps Low-Income Students Through Nursing School Has $893 Million Impact, El Paso Inc. [pdf]
COPA's Restorative Justice Initiative Advances with Support from City of Watsonville & Police
After engaging over 350 Watsonville residents in conversation about public safety and the quality of interactions with police, COPA leaders presented their findings to the Watsonville City Council. Their findings, rooted in the experiences of hundreds of people from diverse walks of life and ages, were quickly integrated into an official report by an ad hoc committee on Policing and Social Equity.
COPA pointed out that policing and safety are not necessarily equivalent terms, and that systemic investments in mental health, youth and family programming, and budget alignments in city and police spending would go a long way towards making Watsonville safer -- particularly for youth of color.
Prior to the pandemic, over 100 COPA-IAF leaders had convened with the Watsonville Police Department Chief and Santa Cruz County Supervisor to address identified concerns about engagements between police and community. Soon after, the City responded with an invitation to participate in an ad-hoc committee on Policing and Social Equity. But COPA leaders first wanted to include more residents in the discussion, and with the support of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD), COPA engaged hundreds more residents in substantive conversations about direct experiences with Watsonville police and what restorative justice can look like.
COPA's reported findings have so far been met with a positive reception by Watsonville elected officials. Leaders plan to persist in their efforts as the City identifies a new Chief for the Watsonville Police Department.
[Photo Credits: (top) Tarmo Hannula, Good Times; (middle) courtesy of COPA]
Watsonville's Policing Committee Releases Report, Readies Recommendations, The Pajaronian
South County Residents' Mixed Response to Watsonville Police Department, Good Times
Watsonville Committee Calls for more Police Accountability, Santa Cruz Local
City of Watsonville Report, Watsonville Ad Hoc Committee on Policing and Social Equity
Report on Police Reforms Filed by Watsonville City Council, Santa Cruz Sentinel [pdf]
Wrapping Up My Term as Mayor, The Pajaronian [12/2020]
A Deep Look into the Watsonville Police Department, The Pajaronian [08/2020]
Watsonville Police Oversight Committee in the Works, The Pajaronian [07/2020]
Watsonville, Santa Cruz to Start Police Reform Committees, Santa Cruz Local [07/2020]
New Committees Address police Reform in Watsonville, Santa Cruz County, Santa Cruz Local [02/2021]
Arizona Interfaith Proves Vital in Petition Drive Against Lowest Flat Tax in Nation
Education advocacy groups on Tuesday filed hundreds of thousands of signatures to block Gov. Doug Ducey’s sweeping income tax cuts, the largest in state history, from going into effect and forcing a public vote on them.
For that to actually happen, at least 118,823 of the 215,787 signatures the Invest in Arizona coalition submitted on one of the measures must be deemed valid by elections officials. If they are, Arizona voters will decide the fate of the tax cuts in November 2022.
[The flat tax] ..."is an affront to the voters of the state, an insult to our teachers, and it’s a direct attack on people that all of us people of faith are instructed to protect: children, the vulnerable, those who live in the margins and have suffered the most in the pandemic,” said Rev. Jeff Procter-Murphy, a member of the Valley Interfaith Project.
Procter-Murphy highlighted one of the points the Invest in Arizona coalition has made since the launch of its referendum campaigns in July: The planned tax cuts won’t just affect education, but the overall state budget.
“The utter lack of political will to invest in future generations has to stop,”
he said. “We see how this rushed tax code will handcuff our state in coming budget cycles, we see how it shortchanges our most vulnerable families for generations to come. We see how these expanded tax cuts will cripple our state government beyond education, health and human services and public safety will also be impacted affecting everyone. Today we are standing up for those whom our elected officials have refused to defend: the poor, the vulnerable, and our children.”
Behind him, white boxes were stacked, some with a red sticker on it with a message in white letters: “The people of Arizona gave Senate Bill 1828 an F.” Next to him were school-aged children holding white poster boards with different messages on them. Some read, “Governor, your handout to the wealthy is in time-out!” “$1 Billion to the wealthy at the expense of my classroom? Not today Governor!” and “Invest in AZ now.”
[Photo Credit: Howard Fischer, Capitol Media Services]
School Advocates Turn in Petitions to Overturn Arizona's $1 Billion Tax Cut, Arizona Republic [pdf]
Foes of Massive Arizona Tax Cuts File to Block Them, Associated Press [pdf]
Education Advocates File Signatures to Force Vote on Ducey’s Tax Cuts in 2022, Arizona Mirror [pdf]
Petitions Turned in, Apparently Will Force Public Vote on Arizona Tax Cut, Arizona Daily Star [pdf]
Tax Cut Likely to Go to Voters, AZ Capitol Times [pdf]
Valley Interfaith Project Fights Wage Theft in Arizona
Fighting wage theft on the community and parish level can be especially effective.
A big part of building any coalition is talking directly to people about their problems and really listening to them, said Jason Lowry, an organizer with the Valley Interfaith Project based in Phoenix.
"Once you figure out what the stories are, there are all kinds of ways you can pull together people who are willing to take action on it. It needs to be truly a grassroots effort."
Such actions also help congregations rethink their role locally, he says, and allow them to "reclaim turf."
Monica Dorcey, who has been a leader with Valley Interfaith Project for 15 years, recently worked with a network of churches in Phoenix to get more low-income people vaccinated.
In general, the basic tool for reaching people, according to Dorcey, is a neighborhood walk, going door-to-door, passing out flyers, setting up house meetings. "Even the ice cream lady who goes all over the neighborhood is involved. It creates a buzz in the neighborhood" as well as generating positive publicity, she said.
"If you don't rush through it, you can have a real conversation not just about what you're interested in, but about what else is going on. You can have opportunities for people to say what's on their mind," she said.
In the case of a topic like wage theft, "it's not something people readily talk about. You have to put yourself in a position where they can open up about it," Dorcey said.
If someone has complaints about some type of wage theft, the goal would be first to help the person "share their story in a clear, concise way." Then, she suggested, a delegation of parish members might approach the individual's employer.
"Say 'We don't expect our people to be treated that way. We respectfully ask you to rectify this situation.' Make it clear that this is something we're working on and we're not going away," she said.
If that happens, she added, "Word would get around. The church might become known as a place to go" to redress injustices.
[Photo Credit: CNS / Reuters / Mike Blake]
On This Labor Day, Advocating for Just Wages Means Fighting Company Theft, National Catholic Reporter [pdf]
After Expanding Tenant Protections in California, COPA Ensures Castroville Residents Get Support
COPA, which stands for Communities Organized for Relational Power in Action, held meetings with its different core teams at different locations throughout California and paid attention to the voices demanding help. As a result, rental assistance regulations were modified to include people living in rooms and garages whether or not they had a lease. Once [COPA] learned this great news, [they] immediately started to plan a way to get this assistance to the people in our town....
Every Wednesday for the last month, members of COPA Castroville have been gathering outside Our Lady of Refuge Catholic church for a noble cause. They are helping community members apply for the rental assistance program authorized by the U.S. government that provides relief for the economic struggles families have experienced because of COVID-19….
Once Congress approved legislation to provide economic stimulus for families, some organizations like COPA organized community members demanding an eviction moratorium and the allocation of federal funds to help families struggling to pay rent. The problem for Castroville, and other small rural communities in the area, is that rental assistance was approved only for tenants with formal leases. And when it comes to Castroville, the picture of rentals is completely different.
[Photo Credit: Voices of Monterey Bay, Adriana Molina]
Helping families in Distress, COPA Assists Castroville Residents Applying for Rent Relief, Voices of Monterey Bay [pdf]
TMO Changes Minds about the Vaccine One Conversation at a Time in Jefferson Co.
The one-on-one approach to persuasion isn’t necessarily the most efficient, but it may be the most effective for the vaccine holdouts who have resisted every other large-scale push....
We know it can work because it already has.
One group out there doing the intensive, small-scale work to raise vaccination rates is the Southeast Texas Faith & Community Leaders Coalition, [an expansion project of TMO] based in Beaumont. Six team members told the editorial board last week that their community, like so many, is awash in vaccine conspiracies. Coordinator Mary Scott said the group has been going directly to apartment complexes with accurate vaccine information, and got approval from some Beaumont businesses to engage with customers about their vaccination drives. The grassroots team got 88 people vaccinated two weekends ago through churches and other centers....
Lamar University student [and TMO organizer] Ricky Mendoza said conversations with Hispanic community members revealed concerns about fertility and the vaccine, which numerous health experts have debunked. (And the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists issued a strong recommendation recently that pregnant women should get vaccinated.)
Mendoza said he’s finding that one-on-one conversations with people, in English and in Spanish, are slowly changing minds.
[Photo Credit: Southeast Texas Faith & Community Leaders]
Changing Minds on the Vaccine, One by One, Houston Chronicle [pdf]
Coalition Brings Vaccines to Beaumont Residents in At-Risk Areas, Beaumont Enterprise [pdf]
Organizations Team Up in Beaumont to Spread Word About Importance of Getting Covid Vaccine, FOX News [pdf]
Putting Our Faith & Commitment to Democracy in Action, Southeast Texas Faith & Community Leaders
TMO Brings 790+ Vaccines to Low-Income Neighborhoods in Harris Co.
In collaboration the Harris County Pubic Health Department and leaders from St. Leo the Great and Our Lady of Grace Catholic Churches, TMO brought over 790 vaccines to overlooked neighborhoods in unincorporated and low-income areas of Harris County.
In Aldine, within the county borders, this collaboration was particularly important for parishioners and neighbors of St. Leo the Great Catholic parish, where over 690 people received their first vaccine dose over the course of two events in August.
In South Houston, leaders from Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church encouraged parishioners to get vaccinated through a combination of pulpit announcements, flyers and after-mass signups. Said Sylvia Soria, church secretary of Our Lady of Grace:
Our parish membership is 99% Latino. Many of our families are working families that can not take time off during the week to get the vaccine across the other side of town. We’re glad to work with TMO, GCLC, and Harris County Health Department to bring the COVID-19 vaccine on a Saturday to our community.
Jornada de Vacunación en Ciudad con Gran Población Hispana, Telemundo [en español]
DAI Drives Vaccination Push Among Immigrant Catholics in Dallas
Dallas Area Interfaith has been working to help stop the spread of COVID-19 since the very beginning of the pandemic. The group, which has members from all religious groups, particularly saw a need for vaccinations in immigrant congregations.
“They are already fearful, they have a fear of the government, our approach is that you reach people in the institution that they trust most, that is closest to them and their family and those are our congregations,” lead organizer Josephine Lopez Paul said.
DAI surveyed the areas hardest hit by COVID-19 and mapped out where their congregations were located. They found that the nine areas with high rates of infection in Dallas were within their congregations.
“The most need in our membership has been among Roman Catholics, especially those who are undocumented,” Paul said.
DAI so far has had vaccination events at four area churches where more than a thousand people total were vaccinated....
Parishioners of Holy Trinity and DAI took the initiative to set up the vaccination event on June 17, partnering with Baylor Scott & White Health and DAI. Baylor and the members canvassed the area prior to the event to sign people up.
Although vaccines are easy to find in Dallas, [parochial vicar Father Mike] Walsh knew that some of his parishioners would feel more comfortable getting vaccinated at church.
“We just know that immigrants especially will get vaccinated at church even though it’s very easy to find a free vaccine,” Walsh said. “They trust church.”
Many Faith Leaders in North Texas Embracing their Role in Vaccine Push, Dallas Morning News [pdf]